Thursday Spotlight: Annie Irwin


Tell us about your background.

I am currently a sophomore in the Textiles Department at the Rhode Island School of Design. Growing up in the Northern Chicago area, I was very lucky to be in an environment where creativity was encouraged. My family was extraordinarily supportive in helping me hone my passion for art. With various experiences in skill development I was able to pour myself into learning the fundamentals of drawing and painting. I have always been in love with painting, oil painting in particular. When I arrived at RISD, I was convinced I would be in school for a BFA in Painting, but with a growing fascination and a drive to add a new component to my painting, I am going to embrace the challenge of understanding and creating textiles.

Name some people, artists, artistic genres, etc. that have been influential in your work.

I am extremely inspired by Jenny Saville’s work. Not only her subject matter, but also the way she paints is decadent and incredibly robust. I also enjoy the absurdity of the Rococo period. I think there is something beautiful in works such as Fragonard and Boucher’s paintings; along with decorative arts that are indulgent in detail. Beyond that, Eric Fischl, Matisse, Rodger Bechtold, Wolf Kahn, Ivan Albright, Diana Al-Hadid, Janet Fish, Edward Gorey, David Kapp, Tim Anderson, Caspar David Friedrich, Abbott Thayer, Andrew Wyeth and Alice Neel are some of many who I find compelling. German Expressionism, German Romanticism, Fauvism and Indian sculpture captivate me. Ultimately I am inspired and attracted to the work that puzzles me, and pushes my vision into a new context that can take on multiple identities.

Where and how do you get your ideas?

I have the exciting position of not yet having a full spectrum of experiences under my belt, so many of my ideas and understandings come from the things I know, and more importantly the things I would like to know. My interactions with the people I surround myself with and self-perception play a large part in my concepts. Objects are also a constant source of story and create a completely new path to follow conceptually. In my future work I hope to be looking for ways to meld modernity and tradition in not only my subject matter but materials as well. Beyond that, the things I see in my environment influence my thinking greatly. The East Coast has exposed beautiful historical architecture and an exciting history, which I will definitely be utilizing in my upcoming work. Architecture, the grotesque, and sculpture have become my most recent, great sources of thought-provoking inspiration.

What materials do you work with? Describe your technical processes.

I try to explore any materials I stumble upon. I have most recently been using charcoal, conté crayon, Oil and Acrylic Paint, Wood and Plaster. Usually I begin with conceptual drawings, thumbnails. These thumbnails, along with writing, guide the visual expression. With my paintings, I complete an under painting that directs the shapes on the picture plane. As I begin to work more closely and in depth with textiles, I am beginning to think more in terms of fiber, fabric, pattern and color, which come from my studies thus far in the department. It is an exciting and challenging new path that I am very much looking forward to continuing.

What do you find to be the most challenging part of being creative? What is the best part of being creative?

I strongly believe that the best part of being creative is the challenge of being creative. I know that’s very redundant, but I mean it. There is a process that an artist must go through with each piece they create, failure or success. Creative processes are exceptional because they are all different and each is valid. Art and Design, along with many other fields requires problem solving, challenging problem solving. I am completely enamored in observing the way that people use design thinking and creative cognition to search for solutions. I personally feel that the creative process is one of the greatest things about being an artist. Aside from that, research is exceptionally rewarding. It is essential to fully immersing yourself in the subject matter of your work.

What advice would you give to someone seeking advice about being an artist?

Persistence through work, criticism, and most importantly through fear is completely necessary in order to create art. Don’t ever stop. It’s going to take an intense work ethic, and you will no doubt receive criticism in one form or another. The brilliant thing is that when you feel accomplished, you will succeed. It is not up to others to determine that. Lastly, while the other points mentioned would be my first advice there is always something very important to keep in mind: humility. All visions are unique, and therefore all have the potential to grow and remaining humble is crucial in the never-ending creative process.

Annie’s website
Annie on Twitter

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